Generation X: No More a Destiny's Child
|Barely into college, in any major city of India, he/she has the trappings of a millionaire. So what if the silver spoon has been missing? Today's youngster refuses to have a routine like that of his/her parents, prefers life in the fast lane and aims for the moon in shortest possible time. That is the definition of youth for you today. And why not, there is an unending list of success stories for inspiration and many a route to the quick bucks.
From corporates to academia, to the art world, there are role models galore. Never before has the society been exposed to the stories of such extraordinary numbers of the younger lot striking gold and so early.
The post liberalization era has seen an unbelievable course of changes. And those winds have swept across the society influencing all and sundry. Upon a retrospective glance as to what it did to the younger lot, the initial phase has been equivalent to the opening of floodgates that took away all powers of discernment with the sheer force (read glitz and glamour). The cultural influence exerted by sudden opening up to the West resulted in a lost generation that was totally soaked in it. The good and the bad came along but the blinding glare disallowed any sensitivity while exercising the powers of choice—what to accept and what to reject.
More than two decades later, the affects seem to be waning away as the cyclical process makes its onward journey. From a generation of lost individuals trying to figure out their place under the sun, there has emerged a more intelligent lot who are slowly getting their bearings right and making the correct moves. They are more focused and are careful not to lose their self in a bid to realize it. Of course, not all stands hunky dory as one would like to believe, but the signs are surely encouraging.
Once upon a time, the ideal upbringing was all about a great deal of discipline, tight purse strings and being economical with emotions. This formula spelt the churning out of individuals who would value time and money. Today, this would be read out loud and as clear as repression. The current young generation is allowed to “be” with endless resources at hand. These are times when pocket money no longer remains the correct term for what it actually is. Compared to their predecessors, the current generation is certainly a privileged lot.
The opportunities for earning more have increased dramatically. Alongside, the new wave of technology has opened up seamless frontiers. The parents have more to spend and their children have more to choose from—the horizons have broadened beyond the limits set by the fields of medicine and engineering. The measure of success now lies in the weight of salary package drawn and the perks that come along with the job.
The young people of today, like many of the crop, have charted a well thought of course for their life—both personal and professional. Previous generations did this too. But the goals were hard to achieve and the sharp focus and clarity that mark the aspirations today were missing. Success never came at the rate and pace that it does today. It is all about precision and the right moves can have one jet setting. The targets are very clear—hit the middle rungs by the time one is thirty try and occupy the CEO’s chair in another five years. If you are not at the top you are nowhere.
The burgeoning of the middle class in India is a prime factor responsible for this revolution of rising aspirations. Education and knowledge have been the keys to upward mobility in an increasingly information driven society. If education is prioritised above all else then it is increasingly becoming a costly affair and the parents are engaged in a bid to be able to save and invest in it. A home PC is essential now, even if that means mere submission of projects in junior classes. The children need to be send for workshops and modules for their all round development and if that is not enough the coveted thing now is education abroad.
Once factor that plays a very important role in pushing these practices and ideologies is that of peer pressure. On one hand they have the marketers on an out and out kill, and alongside there are comparisons with what is owned by friends. Brands is the word and nothing short will do.
With increased incomes, the aspirations in any and every aspect have sky-rocketed. If Goa and Mussoorie were dream destinations of yore then today the dream is nothing short of a holiday abroad. The houses have to have the best and trendiest products. And making this all the more possible is the advent of Plastic Money. Easily available now, the credit cards hold an immense allure for impulsive shopper in the form of buy now and pay later. All those shopping festivals that seemed so out of reach are now only a card-punch away. Equally successful has been the trend of sporting mobile phones and to tap the potential of this segment the service providers have come up with schemes to suit the pockets of most.
Today’s young people are the major pushers of the consumerist culture and the ad-men simply love them. Package it nicely, project a certain status with it and you have sold it to them. What else could explain the fact that two decades ago a bicycle or a moped was an enviable possession. And, today the campus parking lots are choc-a-bloc with flashy cars and bikes of all possible makes, and the owner’s being none other than the students.
The pill popping generation
Everything comes with a price. The increasing pressure to perform and move up the ladder financially is taking the toll on health. Increased incomes are achieved through increased workloads—with an efficiency chart that has to show an upward movement even if it spells round the clock work. The journey is sure onwards, but to a very large extent through sheer pill power.
The diseases that the upwardly mobile youth now suffers from (rightly labelled the ‘lifestyle’ diseases) were not even heard of in that age group a few years ago. These diseases are no way communicable and are caused simply by a way of life that is unhealthy—spending long hours at the workstation, puffing away two packs of twenty in a day, reaching home late with an appetite already murdered by caffeine and nicotine. To boot, a couple of drinks to alleviate the tension and catch some sleep complete the story.
The times are witnessing the largest number of young patients with high blood sugar count, hypertension, insomnia and cardiac problems. There is too much to do and too little time. The high flying, power dressed executive may seem enviable at first, but the underlying truth is that they work under tremendous pressure and stress. Migraines, loss of appetite, lack of sleep and backaches have almost become part and parcel of life. It is estimated that a little less than half of the spending on medicines in the Indian drug market is on the lifestyle drugs.
Exercises and sports have been done out of the routines of most youngsters. The evident trend is to maintain a club or a gym membership, but mostly to flaunt. The goal is to seek status rather than fitness.
A cloistered work environment, noisy cities that never seem to slacken their rush contribute greatly to a hurried and worried mind. A sedentary lifestyle that packs in work with strict deadlines has done its bit too by creating another great problem—depression. Increasingly seen in women, apart from their male counterparts, these victims are under a great deal of stress to perform equally well at home and work front as well. Achieving a balance between home, children and office is quite a handful—for anybody! And to maintain a good career graph is another feat. In this hard to perfect juggling assignment, slipping of any one of the threads causes depression. The side effects of it are also many and manifest in the form of impaired reproductive health, anorexia or bulimia and nervous breakdowns.
Another trend witnessed today is that of women stalling motherhood to pace up their careers. Childbirth after 35 years of age is associated with an altogether different set of ailments, including high risk of breast cancer.
There are always some things that come complimentary with the lifestyle diseases and, more often than not, it is obesity. Modern work schedules promote unhealthy eating habits, untimely meals that mostly constitute coffee and junk food. The concept of parties has also deteriorated to beer and alcohol guzzling sessions that last till wee hours. It is an unending chain of disturbances that upset the system. No wonders there are cases of heart attacks being reported at only 25 years of age. The only way out seems to have routine health check-ups and to incorporate a sport into the everyday routine.
Technology – for Better or Worse
The 90s saw the Information Technology spread very rapidly and fast among various sections of population across the world. The Internet technology in the later part of the 90s has also changed the way people communicate with each other. The coming years would see increasing technology development and focus on what is being called the “ICE (Information Communication Entertainment) age”.
Technology is what young people have (more than anyone else) grown up with, what they know more about than their parents, what gives them an edge. They are early adopters and adapters of technologies, ranging from mobile telephones to email to instant messaging to radio and television. Life for them without any of the gizmos would be unthinkable. With the introduction of the Internet, these young people have acquired a powerful new tool to connect and to communicate. Today, young people go online more than anyone else, they stay online longer, and they have more diverse online activities.
Politics - New Perceptions
The young generation of today is much more politically conscious too. After the end of the British Raj in India there followed an almost dynastic rule—this despite gaining independence. The years of subjugation had only promoted an outlook that would have been prevalent in a fiefdom in the minds of the people. As a result, when the hypnotic spell broke in the late 80s, it marked the beginning of people’s experimentation replacing different parties in the ruling position.
Much to the disenchantment, everyone came in to extract their pound of flesh… so much so that the news of newer scams and scandals does not interest or evoke anger any more. The last generation had a great amount of anger and were seething inside. But the powerlessness only resulted in frustration. The effect has carried over to the generation of today, but there is a difference. Today, there is no expectation from the “leadership”. There is a government because it is simply supposed to be there.
Now the youth is more action-oriented. We need doer’s. If the nation cannot be in step with the times then the leaders are no good. Most youth feel that the need of the hour is aggressive nationalism and virtuosity in this context has few takers. The vanguards must have a drive to go out and get something done and not merely be driven to fill their pockets while the Sun shines. Indeed, “political will” is the ingredient gone missing in the recipe for good governance.
The image of the politicians carried by the youth is not at all flattering—they are a bunch of over-age people who find it difficult to come to terms with the present and its needs. Caught up in a time frame, long gone by, they do not have any vision for the future.
Undoubtedly, the number of politicians with a criminal background has soared greatly. What good does one expect from a history-sheeter. And for a generation that values education greatly could any illiterate politician lead the way. Isn’t the leader supposed to set an example or have the rules of the game changed—He who totes the gun, “calls the shots”?
It should then not come as a surprise if this generation views a band of doers as the real leaders. In their mind space there is room for go-getters like Kiran Bedi, the Ambanis, Bill Gates and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who have a genuine achievement for the masses to flaunt.
This generation is, indeed, desperately seeking mentors and role models—the true leaders who can light the way for them and not merely supply rhetoric.